Getting over this damn Belgian flu

It’s not really the flu, but that made a better title.

It’s been a long recovery process but I’m finally, sort of, nearly, almost but not quite over my cold. It’ll be another couple days before I race. I’m not taking any chances this time. Up until this bout of sickness I’d been pretty healthy this year, only getting sick twice—once in March before San Dimas/Redlands and once in July during Cascade. Great times to get sick, I know. Judging by my training journal, those other two times were due to coincidence. This time was definitely my fault. Racing three times a week without a rest week every fourth week was too much and I ruined my chances at Univest because of it. Sam warned me about this but I didn’t listen closely enough.

The first thing I did when I realized I needed to get healthy FAST was to start growing a mustache. It’s coming along pretty well, though it’s been a week now and the progress has seemed to stagnate in the past few days. I’ll report back in another week.

Aside than the mustache, I started some heavy cough meds after I touched down here in Belgium, which seem to have helped–the most potent one being a eucalyptus slash codeine syrup. Codeine lives in the same narcotic family as morphine and has been giving me some pretty good dreams the past week. 12 hours a night of ‘em. Just solid dreaming the entire time. Dreaming of bike races, being late to bike races, dreaming of not being able to fall asleep, dreaming of eating desert foods, dreaming of waking up to check the clock in the living room to see if I’ve slept long enough, dreaming of much stranger things that I can’t put into words. OK, I’ll try: aeovcmwk ao ekdk lalsdl lsdn ioeqp snnvba slieh. See, couldn’t put them into words.

My brain is so tired from dreaming all night it needs the majority of the day to recover, so I let it watch Belgian TV, which is basically the crappiest American TV shows. Maybe my brain isn’t tired from overuse; maybe it’s just out of shape. It’s been a while since I read a book. The Deschutes public libary (yeah that’s how you spell that word) has been hounding me with emails politely asking me to return my overdue books. It’s been more than two months now since I was supposed to drop them off. I think I must owe like 21 cents by now.

Sleep by the numbers:

Tuesday (7 hour nap during the day+12 at night)=19 hours
Wednesday 12 hours
Thursday 11 hours
Friday 13 hours
Saturday 12 hours
Sunday 11 hours

That 13-hour night is a PR by the way. I don’t think I’ve slept that long in one sitting since I was a toddler.

I don’t have mono because I don’t feel especially tired during the day. I know I don’t have it because I choose denial over the truth every time. Except in the second half of that sentence.

Big news here in Oudenaarde. 1) The Ronde de Vlanderen (Tour of Flanders) is finishing in Oudenaarde next year, 2) Colruyt is being cheap again and is putting out crappy muffins instead of cookies or waffles, and 3) the TRACTOR PARADE HAS COME TO TOWN!!!!

Behold the tractors of Oudenaarde!!!!

Behold the people watching the tractors pass by on the highway on their way to the tractor festival, not actually there at the festival yet—just people setting up lawn chairs on the side of the highway to get a glimpse of an every day tractor that they see all the time here anyways since there’s farmer’s fields everywhere and there’s really no reason to have a special tractor festival or to go watch them especially on the side of the highway for three hours straight unless they’re throwing out candy, which they aren’t despite my shouting out the window for them to do so.

Behold me watching the people watching the tractors because I don’t have anything better to do either. I don’t actually have a picture of this because then I’d have to continue with the ‘beholds’ and take a picture of me taking a picture, which would require two cameras and I only have one.

This blog post has been the culmination of six day’s worth of thoughts and events. I started writing it on Wednesday.

2nd half of Univest. The high life is short lived.

This past week has been non-stop action. Waaaay too much travel, hard racing, sleeping in a different bed almost every other night, large groups of people in which I had conversations with non bike racers…it’s been stressful. I’m back in the comfort of Belgium now, preparing for three more weeks of kermess racing to cap off the season, you know—just in case I’m not fully depleted yet.

I’m still sick. Even worse than when I left. I’m having big regrets about racing the Sunday before last at that Rochefort interclub. If only I’d rested instead…things would have gone much differently this week. Or the same. Or just slightly differently. Or medium differently. One of the four.

Each time I’ve been on a plane the past two months I’ve been one of those people everyone loves to hate: a sick person-—hacking, wheezing, constantly blowing my nose, asking the person next to me if they’re “going to finish that.” I avoided the awkwardness of begging for leftovers this last flight by waiting for the woman next to me to fall asleep before I snuck the untouched bun from her tray. Sneaky sneaky!

The only good thing about being sick while traveling is that I wasn’t worried about getting sick. My usual paranoia was replaced with such carefree relaxation that it almost made up for being sick. This time I’m doing things right and recovery fully before I start up again. I think it will just be a short while too, because the nice woman at the pharmacy gave me a bottle of codeine. In fact, I’m pretty sure one dose of it cured me. Race tomorrow?? Nah, JK.

I already talked about the road race, so here’s a quick power-less point presentation of the Univest crit:

Point A) It was hard.
Point B) I was in a short breakaway, after which the race seemed even harder.
Point C) Gabe attacked a lot.
Point E) 90 minutes in, Cody told me he was deep in the box. At the time I was in too much pain to think of a sexual innuendo.
Point F) Ian got 4th!!!!!!!!
Point G) We ate Chipotle afterwards in celebration, bringing to an end the longest span of my life without Mexican food.
Point H) There is no point D.

Although I didn’t get the results I wanted, I can’t complain about the weekend; it was one of my favorites of the year. The race was awesome (there needs to be more hard one day circuits like this in the US), our hosts were amazing, it was a breath of fresh air to meet some new people who weren’t English, and it was great seeing my teammates one last time before the winter.

Here’s some pictures, none of which are of the race. For those, just imagine a bunch of bikes with people on them sweating.

Every bus in New Jersey is a short bus.

Post race party at the Mayor’s house on Saturday night. “Oh my God look at all these people. What do we do!!”

Answer: Retreat to a dark corner amongst ourselves, leaving only to get more food. And speaking of food:

The next night after the crit we were forced to eat even more good food. Philly cheese-steaks, Italian sausages, and grilled vegetables.

Philly cheese-steak/Italian sausage combo. Had to be done.

Chris had never tried putting a sausage in a taco before. He said it was good.

Desert time! Kennett want ice cream!!!! NOW!!

Wish granted.

It was a great weekend and I’m missing Pennsylvania already, though I don’t quite understand the name. I didn’t see one veiny pencil the entire trip! HAHAHA. You’re welcome for that.

And now….well, I’m back to this:

A quick trip to paradise and it’s back to living the dream in a dirty Belgian apartment. It’s cold, damp, and it almost feels like home. Uh oh. I’m upstairs typing on the computer in the windowsill and just saw Evgeney hit a parked car. And the owner saw it happen. Time for drama.

Univest GP (I’m in ‘Merica now BTW)

I’ve traveled back to the States for one last race with Hagens Berman for the 2011 season. I had high hopes for today–a hilly circuit race in Souderton, Pensylvania (just north of Philly). It was a course suited to my strengths and reminiscent of a kermess/interclub. The final UCI and NRC race of the year, Univest Grand Prix has been on my mind for quite a while. Spoiler alert: I didn’t win!

Here’s Cyclingnews’ take on the race.

It was a long voyage to get here, spanning two full days of, trains, flying, shuttle buses, and driving, but I made it safe and sound to the warm, muggy East Coast in high spirits and ready to crush some fellow American legs. I hate to start this next sentence with this word I’ve chosen, but I have to do it. Unfortunately, for what ever reason, I did not have it in me to pull out a good result today. My best guess as to why that is, is that I’m still fighting a cold. I hate to use an excuse like that and I was really hoping I’d be able to write a positive race report for once, but…whatever. The race gods decided to keep me down today. Surely they’re saving up my big victory for something soon though. The race is done and over with and there’s nothing to do now but continue looking towards the future. Positivity is my middle name!

I felt OK in the race until half way through when I began lagging a bit. My legs just didn’t want to turn over like they were supposed to and no matter how much I willed them to do so, they didn’t have it in the end. The pack had been whittled down to 40 riders or less with half a lap to go, while three guys made a late race attack to steal the podium. I struggled up the final climb and pretty much just coasted through the finish line since there was no where to go in the final 300 meters of downhill before the short, 100 meter riser to the finish line. My positioning and race tactics were not a problem today whatsoever. If anything, I was too attentive for the first 3/4ths of the race and spent too much time being smart! My forte usually doesn’t lie in positioning, cornering, chopping in corners, and conservative race tactics, but today I realized I had to rely on them if I wanted to have a chance at the finish (plus my brain decided to be intelligent today). I threw in a few attacks mid-race on the climbs, nothing too serious though. I mainly followed wheels and maintained a top 20-30 position throughout the 17 laps. In the end I took 25th, which sucks considering I thought and knew I was capable of a top 10 here. With the way I’ve been riding the past month, I knew if I had a good day this would be possible.

Tomorrow is the crit. Not sure how my body is going to respond to the hard efforts today. I’m hoping my immune system holds it together and doesn’t take a nose dive because I’ve still got some fight left in my noggin.

Team-wise, we actually had a very good showing today. Gabe took second in the KOM, which unfortunately doesn’t award him any money, but is still a great achievement, and Ian, Gabe, and I all finished in the lead group taking 17th, 29th, and 25th respectively. Not too shabby for just an “amateur” team. I despise that word by the way. The only amateur thing about us is that we don’t get paid…which is actually the definition of an amateur. Soooo, in that case my contempt doesn’t make any sense. Anyways, Cody, Dan, and Chris also had good races, with Chris and Dan both making good comebacks after some serious injuries. Chris, who had a life-threatening head injury in June during Mt. Hood, even crashed today, got back up, and continued racing! Nerves of steal. Over and out.

PS I WASTED you in our blogging race today, Ian! Take that!

Last week in Belgium

If you want a spot on description of what my time in Belgium has been like thus far, look no further than this song, Loca People.

It’s a completely accurate picture of my normal day to day…minus the drinking. And the dancing girls. And the partying, the sun, the fun, the night club, and the guy named Johnny. Other than that it’s the same, as in:

“When I came to Belgium and I saw how people race bikes I thought to myself, ‘what the f—?’”

All day, all night. Bike racing. Everywhere. Every day of the week. In a country smaller than Oregon’s Willamette Valley, having eight races to chose from on a Wednesday is pure insanity. Eight hard races with equally hardened riders, all willing to tear themselves inside out, get in a fist fight at 50km/hr, and tear themselves inside out all over again…just for 38th place and 10 euros. Belgium: the land of cycling that we all dream about.

I’ve only raced twice since my last post about the Denderhoutem kermess, and although I said I wouldn’t write about a race unless I got top five, here I go anyways (I didn’t place top five either day).

The past two races I’ve done have been interclubs—those 100 mile races that take between 3:20 and 4 hours.

I woke on Monday morning with a slight trickle in my throat. The slightest of trickles, which I passed off as just needing a little more protein and fluids (a trick I tell myself to keep my worrying at bay and continue training/racing). So instead of rest, I upped my food intake a little and continued on with my week, racing on Monday with good legs. Tuesday was an easy ride in the rain–just an hour spin with one good hard effort to keep my legs open for Wednesday. The trickle was still there.

Wednesday was the interclub. It took place in the city of Wingeme and was named thusly. It was 12 laps of a 14.8–13 km circuit (the circuit varied). It was pan flat and fairly windy. In fact it was one of the more exposed, windier races I’ve done. Lots of cross wind sections made for a hard day. We began with a short, 2km neutral section, which saw my heart rate skyrocket and my legs burn in agony to turn over as we sprinted out of the still-neutralized corners. In fact, after 10 minutes of racing I wasn’t sure I’d be able to finish. I was feeling pretty cracked already and I could tell my energy levels were already low from my cold. I continued on of course.

Fighting for position was a big one today. I’d get up on the sidewalk in one particular corner and make my way into the top 15. From there I’d slowly drift back for the majority of the lap (not on purpose) until the next time we got to that particular corner, where I’d again chop 100 people with my brilliant sidewalk maneuver.

Six laps went by until I gave it a go off the front. No dice. We were still clipping along at 55-60 km/hr in certain tailwind portions, and the early breakaway hadn’t been caught yet. It was still dangling, just 20-30 seconds up the road.

On lap seven or maybe eight, just when the break was finally caught, I threw in another few attacks and followed wheels off the front for a bit, but it was still too early for the winning move to get away. I was feeling better and had figured out which way the wind was blowing on each section of the circuit by now, so my confidence was fairly high compared to how I felt at the start.

On lap nine my teammate Michael (the Scott) moved up past me. I knew to follow him since he has a keen sense of the winning move. We were both hovering around the front in the top 15 or 20 when he followed some wheels off the front. Someone sat up a few places behind him and let the gap open. I had been on his wheel 30 seconds earlier but lost it temporarily. I thought of jumping to close the gap, but feared it would ruin the move’s chances, plus I assumed someone else would cover it. Even though the gap was only10 bike lengths, every second spent in the wind adds up and every free ride helps.

I cursed myself for not being directly on his wheel as the gap increased to about 10 seconds over the next few kilometers, finally getting up to 30 by the end of the lap with three to go.

The next lap was the hardest of the race. I spent the first four kilometers of it following moves and bridging gaps as everyone tried to get in the next move. A group of 20 got away, chasing Michael’s lead group of 16, and the front end of the peloton dwindled to just 15 of us as we punished ourselves to catch that second group of 20. We made it…and were doomed to spend the next half lap suffering at the back in the crosswind. I was so cracked at one point that I just prayed I’d either crash off the side of the road or that we’d get caught by the peloton. Neither happened unfortunately, and I was subjugated to a severe amount of torture. There’s no worse pain than that being dealt to you in a crosswind section, especially as you look back and see everyone behind you has been dropped and there’s no place to retreat to. You’re at the mercy of those in front, those lucky few who are in the relative comfort of a well-formed echelon, protecting each other from the crosswind as you surge at 500 watts for 20 seconds, let off the pedals and coast for four seconds, surge again for 16 seconds, let off for seven, surge again for 40…it’s never-ending.

Two laps to go. I sat in, not doing any work because some German team had missed out on the front group and had five guys in ours, working hard to get up there. We got agonizingly close–to within 12 seconds. I’d started taking pulls by then as we came to the finish line with one lap to go. Then it all went down the drain. Everyone began attacking and our group blew up. I missed out somehow, despite getting into a few initial moves. My brain wasn’t really working at that point and I spent a bit too much time in the wind alone. I’d taken a couple corners poorly the lap earlier and had also almost crashed into someone on a straight section of road. I was nauseous and felt more and more flu-ish. My vision and sense of balance were taking a nosedive, as were my energy levels. Just a lap to go though. Got to hold it together.

Half of our group had gotten up the road in groups of threes and fours. The rest of us rode the last 10 kilometers at an easy tempo. The peloton was minutes behind by now. We took even turns pulling through, silent in our defeat. I attacked with 1.5 K to go anyways, just in case a top 25 spot was still available (in the money). I rode in alone for 30th (no money). My teammate Michael was 10th and another teammate, Jake, was 44th. Our team’s top three places were good enough to get us 10th in the team competition (which awarded us 15 whole euros! Divided five ways is three bucks each. CA-CHING!!). 10 overall also made our team director pretty happy since it got some points for the team, which are needed to keep getting interclub invitations.

I felt absolutely awful after the race. Really tired and sick, though at the same time high on adrenaline and caffeine as usual. I was pretty sick for the next couple days and didn’t touch the bike. I spent my days sleeping 12 hours a night and eating split pea soup and oranges and drinking chicken bullion broth.

By Saturday I was still feeling bad, but decided to ride anyways and test out my legs for the interclub on Sunday—a hard, hilly race in the Ardennes (the southern Wallonie region of Belgium). I rode for 17 minutes, felt a near bonk coming on, turned around, and went home. On the mend but still sick. Tomorrow was going to be a long ass day. I’d been looking forward to this race for a whole week and wasn’t going to miss it. Plus the next race after it wasn’t until Univest on the 17th. Plus I couldn’t pass up a free meal of rice pudding sandwiches and granola bars (race food provided by the team).

Sunday: Rochefort interclub. Six laps of varying circuits and 12 KOM climbs. The team van came and picked Jake and I up at 9AM. I slept during the two-hour journey and awoke to pissing rain. TO BE CONTINUED!!!!!

Nah, changed my mind. I’ll write it all now. I fought violently with myself the entire race to not drop out. I felt like shit, though I raced OK. I got in a break mid way through, got caught, stayed near the front and made the front splits with 2.5 laps to go. I died 100 deaths up the next climb and a further 1,000 during the following crosswind section when things broke up even more, made the front split of 10 guys (there were still 10 up the road in the early breakaway though). We sat up a bit on a descent and our group swelled back up to 30. At that point I felt content about my efforts for the day and was happy to just follow the wheel in front of me. I decided to just follow wheels. I would spend absolutely no more time spent in the wind whatsoever. I was too screwed to do anything else and was still trying to just convince myself to finish, let alone continue attacking and bridging gaps. Unfortunatly the wheels I followed up the next climb didn’t work out and the guy I was sitting on didn’t cover a gap over the top section of the climb. Small groups merged and formed a group of 15 that got away from us while our group was eventually eaten up by the rest of the 20-man groups behind us, finally becoming the peloton again when we really sat up with two laps to go.

The final 40km were ridden easily, with a few groups going away initially to take up 25-40th place. After our slow jaunt for the last two short laps, apparently unofficially neutralized (much to my appreciation), the sprint was on with 1K to race. Go figure. came in 57th place on the day. I’m licking my wounds as well as my chops for another hilly interclub like this. Coming into one of these healthy and firing at 100% will be a whole different story, which will probably go like this, “I attacked a lot, felt strong, but missed the winning move and the second move and the third move and got 56th–one place better than that other time when I was ill.” Ha ha, nopefully not. Yeah, I just used the word “nopefully.” When it goes mainstream, remember, you heard it here first.

Wingeme. Enjoying a tasty pudding sandwich.

After Rochefort.

Post race subs on the house!!!

It was a long car ride back. No, that isn’t 1.5 liters of lemonade. The width of this opening requires quite a bit of concentration… aiming into such a small hole. No pun intended there. I redeemed myself today, for the last time I attempted this procedure it ended up in disaster. Sorry Lang, but your old car is in the dump anyways now so you can’t be mad at me for telling you now.

Kermess in Denderhoutem. Guess what happened. I didn’t win.

We had a right proper race yesterday. 11 laps with a hard, rain-slicked cobbled climb that I thoroughly enjoyed stomping up every time. As usual, I missed out on the winning break. It formed on the first two laps when I was still learning the course, though that isn’t the reason I missed out. As we headed into the final corner at the base of the climb on the second lap, I sat third wheel, which was great. Perfect spot to be since there was a smidgen of head/cross wind going up it. But the bloke in front of me almost crashed sideways into my front wheel as I tried to pass on his left, causing me to brake. If I hadn’t I would have gone into a barbed-wire fence. The braking immediately caused a gap to open up, which I was able to close, but then at the top I had to come around another guy who’d blown up. This gap was even larger than the one before. I dug hard at the top here, where the climb flattens out for a few hundred meters before gradually heading downhill, and I latched onto a small group of maybe three or four guys. One or two had been up the road and we’d just caught them.

I had a teammate with me now, Henrych, who was riding very strong, and the four of us looked like the perfect group to bridge up to the two guys off the front who’d gone on lap one. I worked on the descent and tailwind section over the next few kilometers, though I was pretty cracked from the climb and was in quite a heap of pain. A few K later, after a few guys had bridged to us, it all went to shit. Our group was about six strong now, two getting dropped another four or so bridging to take their places. I slotted in at the back after taking a pull, just as the guy at the tail end of our group let the wheel go in front of him (typical move over here to force someone else to do extra work while you take a breather) but I didn’t come around to close it for him (which is what he wanted). I yelled at him, he shook his head, deciding his legs were too cracked and that he’d instead call my bluff. We both ended up losing contact with the others in a stalemate. I had one last moment of decision as I looked back and saw the pack closing in on us, just a couple seconds behind. I could either destroy myself and close the gap up ahead, or let the pack catch us. The smart decision seemed to be to let the pack catch us since the entire move looked doomed at that point, so that’s what I did.

The peloton caught us. It did not catch the others. Instead, they dangled off the front for two kilometers, just 3 or 4 seconds up the road. A lap later they were still only 20 seconds ahead of us as guys attacked (myself included) trying to bridge up to them. But in reality they were gone, slowly riding away from us over the next few laps. Henrych crashed out of the break a few laps later. At one point early on it had looked like we’d have the breakaway stacked with two riders; now we had nothing.

My revenge was taken on the climb every single lap after that second one. I CRUSHED it so hard a two times that I actually had to sit up and coast at the top because no one was even within sight, behind or in front (the break was over a minute up the road at this point). It was futile to go alone in the wind, every time I did it just resulted in a waste of energy.

The race remained aggressive and my teammate Jake and I bridged up to one of the secondary moves that had gone up the road later, around lap five or so. Our new group contained 11 guys, fighting for 8th place since seven men were up the road in the front group. I continued to take the lead on the climb every lap and split the group each time, the last few times only Jake was able to hold my wheel. All 11 guys kept coming back together on the tailwind section, but the worn out legs showed on everyone’s faces. Jake and I discussed a plan and we decided our best option was for me to keep smashing the climb and on the last lap the two of us would go all out on the following tailwind section to stay away for 8th and 9th place. Either that, or I’d at least be able to split the group like usual, though on the last lap things are less likely to come back together since guys are less willing to work together to regain contact, everyone thinking of saving their own legs. We were out of the podium, but had a likely chance of both getting top 10.

As we came to the finish line with two laps to go everyone began sprinting wildly like it was the end of the race. Because it was. The race announcer must have said it was the finish over the loudspeaker (cutting us short by two laps). I put in a quick few pedal strokes during the last 100 meters, but it was too little too late. I finished 15th. The front seven, who continued on for the remaining two laps, finished in defeated-looking groups of one’s and two’s, broken to smithereens from the cobbled climb. If only I’d been in that lead group and used my legs at the front of the race instead of fighting for the scraps!!! AGHHHHH!!!! I’m getting sick and tired of writing stupid race reports like this. I’ve had it! From now on I won’t write anything and you can just assume I got 15th or 20th. I’ll write a race report worth reading when I get a top 5.

Doing some serious reflecting on what happened during the race…or thinking about what’s for dinner.


I know I’m sounding like a scratched CD, but I slimly missed the mark in Marke yet again.

It’s 2:07am and I can’t sleep. Lots of caffeine and left over race adrenaline are winning the battle against Tylenol PM and red wine. I’m not drowsy at all, though I should be. Today was another sloberknocker out in the city of Marke. It was fast, hot, and full of non-stop attacking. The race is still playing (agonizingly) through my mind, mixing and melding with other imaginary race scenarios, namely Univest, which is in two weeks and is another cause of my unrest.

I put in the best kind of attack and went with 1K to go and got caught with 100 meters left. There wasn’t an ounce left in me. If the race had been 100 meters shorter I could have held them off (for 3rd place since that was what we were racing for at the time), but then again if the race had been 100 meters shorter my 1km attack would have happened 100 meters sooner.

Unlike most days here in overcast ‘Pacific Northwest winter’ Belgium, today was hot. It started out in the 80’s but by mid-race it was 90, which isn’t too ridiculous, especially since I like the heat, but no one here is used to it since it’s been in the 60’s and 70’s for weeks. On top of that I had no one feeding me. I watched enviously at the other guys in the race as they grabbed bottles and cold, wet sponges every single lap. “Have I learned my lesson?” I thought. “Do I steal another bottle and get in a fight, or am I better off just suffering through it?” I ended up going for the later since I didn’t need any more enemies in the race.

Jake got in an 8 or 9-man breakaway on the second lap. I attacked hard and followed moves, eventually bridging up to him on the fifth lap with another teammate, Michael, from Scotland. He plays a mean set of bagpipes and tosses heavy logs during his rest days. And he had a full dish of haggis in his back pocket for race food, so I knew his would be a good wheel to follow in case I got hungry and/or the Lockness monster attacked us.

The breakaway swelled to well over 30 guys during the fifth or sixth lap, which was way too many. Things broke apart constantly but kept getting stitched back together, mainly since there were three or four teams each with a lot of guys in the move. The Chilean national team had somewhere between 6 and 8 guys, while one of the better Belgian teams, Deucock, had the same amount. Despite having three ASFRA Flanders guys in there (my team), we were well out-numbered. We compensated by not giving a shit. To make things interesting the race organizers had primes on every lap except the last, making 19 primes in total since we were doing 20x 6km laps.

Somewhere in there I went for a prime with 1K to go, right before a roundabout, and got a huge gap. I took the prime and stayed away for another few kilometers by myself before one other guy bridged to me. We were caught half a lap later, just like every other 259 times I attacked today, but it gave me confidence that I could stick a similar 1 km move on the final lap, assuming I was still there (and my legs too).

I continued to be one of the main aggressors, never retreating to the rear of the break, in fear that it would split up. I decided I’d risk doing too much rather than too little. Sitting in and hoping it stayed together for the final lap, or only going with one move every other lap, would be the safer, easier option, though I doubt it would have worked. Instead, Jake, Michael, and I all helped tear the break apart; with 9 or 10 laps remaining half the break was shot out the back. At one point all three of us got away to form a seven-man move. Them’s were good odds, but we got chased down since it lacked the right mix. The lead group swelled back up to 19.

On the 16th lap two guys (Chile and Deucock) got away and stuck it for 1st and 2nd. The nerve of those scallywags! A handful of us tried an organized chase but things kept disintegrating when the two teams with teammates up the road would attack us on the headwind section and the short hill after it to stop our progress. With two laps to go it looked doomed; the two guys off the front had over a minute so the motto became “attack, attack, attack,” instead of “attack, attack, pull, attack” like it was before.

Despite the constant attacking, 17 of us were all together coming into the final two kilometers. I decided to grow a pair and go for the final spot on the podium with my 1K to go move. All or nothing. I knew everyone was extremely cracked from the attrition and dehydrated from the heat, so I figured if I got any decent gap at all they’d give up and just look at each other until the 250-meter marker. That would have been the case and is almost always the case in the races over here because everyone is so F’ed at the end, but the damn Chilean team still had 4 guys left. So they blew themselves up in a super fast lead-out and caught me to win the sprint for 3rd (they also took 2nd with one of their guys up the road and they won every prime except the one I did, which meant they took home about 700 euros). I was a bit devastated. I was too hot and tired to be that devastated though. At least it wasn’t for 1st; that would have been much harder to swallow. But still, I want to take home some damn flowers and a trophy!!!!

I crumpled to the sidewalk after the finish line, coming in 16th since almost everyone in the break passed me after the Chileans drug them to the line. A small group of concerned people crowded around as I lay on the pavement. They gave me a can of iced tea while I regained myself from near death.

After changing into our street clothes at the car, Jake, Evgeney, and I collected our money from the bar. I spotted a large, unguarded tray of sandwiches for the officials sitting in a corner and made a quick decision. I grabbed one and ate half of it before wondering what kind of filling it contained. At first taste (and texture) I suspected it was salmon locks. But on further inspection I realized that it was raw hamburger meat. This proved to cause some unrest in my stomach about 20 minutes later. Note to self: raw hamburger + heat exhaustion = still worth it. Time to sleep. My eyes grow heavy at last.

Jake changing in a patch of stinging nettles after the race.


Warning, this next photo contains full female frontal nudity…

…and by that I mean the exact opposite.

This one’s for all the ladies out there. Apparently I put on a pair of pants in the exact same position that I ride a bike.

Frankenstein’s monster’s dream cookie creation

What have I created!?!?!?!?! It’s a monster!!!!! A monster I say!!!

Speculoos paste + speculoos cookies= BIGGUNS x1000!!!

But before we get into that I’m gonna make you read a quick and to the point blurb about yesterday’s stupid race. Nothing special about it. I even told myself it wasn’t worthy of a blog post. But in the end I had to write something to flesh out my thoughts about it, which is one of the main reasons I like to write–to learn and think. Garrison Keillor once said, “You yourself don’t know what you really think until you write about it.” Unfortunately I heard him say this during a TV interview, not on paper, so I’m not sure if he really meant it. Anyways:

Oudenburg Interclub. 170km, 13x13km laps. 195 starters.

Lap 1: I did a sidewalk attack during the neutral roll out and went from the back to the front. We did another 10 minutes of easy neutralized riding, took a pee break once we were out of town, and then immediately began attacking without any signal from anyone. I slowly drifted backwards to avoid wasting energy.

Lap2: I sat in mid pack.

Lap3: More sitting in. I was wondering when the race was going to get hard. I was told it would be a bunch finish or a later move, so I avoided trying to get in a break.

Lap 4: Unusually mild wind meant the flat course would be pretty chill.

Lap5: Someone drifting backwards through the pack after an attack caused a chain reaction of brake-grabbing. I slowed in time but the guy behind me didn’t, ran into me, then crashed into a parked van. A few minutes later in an unrelated event, two guys decided their argument couldn’t be solved with words so they dismounted their bikes at the side of the road and duked it out 1920’s boxing style.

Lap 6: The breakaway, finally succeeding midway into lap 5, was now 1:15 up the road. I moved up in the pack. The mentality that I got from everyone was that the break would be caught by the peloton or bridged up to by a later move.

Lap 7: I began attacking in between bouts of fake Quickstep pulling on the front. They’d drill it, blow up, the race would begin shattering as the aggressors tried getting away, nothing would stick for long, then Quickstep would come back to the front just before things blew to shreds for good (too bad). Someone ran over a pretty girl on the sidewalk, going 50+ km/hr. The peloton ooed, awed, and cringed.

Lap 8: I ate a waffle and continued attacking and following moves. My legs felt better than ever.

Lap 9: I began a feud with rider #133: I did a monster pull and bridged solo across to a split up the road, went straight by them when they sat up, bridged across to another split but didn’t close the gap completely and instead elbowed for the guy who’d latched onto my wheel from the last split to come around and finish it off. He pulled through for one second, blew up, and elbowed for me to come back around for the final pull. I yelled at him, he yelled back, I shook my fist, he shook his, and we argued until another group came up behind to stitch the gap up for us. We both spent the next half lap off the front trying to get away in various moves, each of us trying to screw each other over when we could. Show no mercy.

Lap 10: I got a bottle thrown directly into my head by someone else during a feed zone. Accident? Probably not but I have no clue why I deserved it and wasn’t quite sure who done it. I sought revenge. And attacked.

Lap 11: Still attacking. Going with everything now. One of these moves is going to work! Fake Quickstep was blown to shreds; the gap to the break was under a minute. I followed a long string of moves except the ONE move that got away (I know, the story of everyone’s life). A teammate of mine had followed an attack so as other guys tried to bridge the small gap, I sat on to kill it or get a free tow. I did not get a free tow, and decided to be a good teammate and not bridge up there myself and drag others across. My teammate and the others he was with dangled off the front for a few minutes before forming a working unit and gradually riding away from us, reaching the breakaway a lap later, and becoming the large winning move.

Lap 12: I stayed somewhat close to the front but missed a few secondary moves that went up the road. I didn’t care that much since we were racing for 30th by that point.

Lap 13: I rolled through the finish line in the bunch, avoiding being a douche and sprinting for 50th. Race over. This was the first race over here that I’ve used my powertap wheel, so despite not getting a decent result I at least had some good data to look at when I got home. I spent a total of 37 minutes between 470 and 1200 watts in my “supra max zone,” according to poweragent.

After the race while waiting in the parking lot: I drank a liter of orange soda, ate a can of rice pudding, and felt ready to do another race. Magical legs today but no luck. Just have to continue throwing it out there and one of these times a fish will chew…or however that saying goes.


700 grams of speculoos paste. 1 kilo of speculoos cookies. Jake, Justin, and I ate all of it this afternoon and evening. (Speculoos cookies are basically ginger snaps and the paste is pulverized cookies with extra oil, made into a peanut butter type spread)

Let the madness begin.

Things went downhill fast.

Vanilla ice cream mixed with crushed speculoos cookies and fried speculoos paste.

Bigguns only do downhill races now!